Brooks Museum Looks Into City’s Soul To Display African-American Art

(Memphis) Inside the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, “The Soul of a City” is captured on canvas, sculpture, pictures and in quilts.
            
Visitors such as Kelly Athow and her daughter, Hannah, are moved by the stories told by each piece of art, “It’s awesome. I love seeing local work and history of our city. Everything is beautiful. It’s well done.”
         
“The Soul of a City” is a rare collection of Memphis public and private African-American art from lenders such as Elliot and Kim Perry, Ron and Marianne Walter, Judge and Mrs. D’Army Bailey, Drs. James and Rushton Patterson, John and Susan Jerit, Craig Wiener, Robert Bain, the University of Memphis, and LeMoyne-Owen College.

It’s art that’s organized around themes such as music, civil rights, and religion that truly tell an American story.  

“The Soul of A City” features painters such Norman Lewis, Kehinde Wiley, Jacob Lawrence, Sam Gilliam, Radcliffe Bailey, and Alma Thomas; folk artists Clementine Hunter, Purvis Young, and Elijah Pierce; sculptors Chakaia Booker and Elizabeth Catlett; collagists Romare Bearden and Wangechi Mutu; mixed media artists Glenn Ligon and Whitfield Lovell; and photographers James van der Zee, Lorna Simpson, and Carrie Mae Weems.

Dr. Stanton Thomas is curator of European and Decorative Art at the Brooks Museum, “We have a very rich culture as for African-American and white culture. I think this is the first time we’ve looked at it citywide to see what’s here and there are some great discoveries.”
           
The art shows the diversity, vitality and creativity of African-American artists dating back to the late 19th century to present day such as 31-year-old Jared Small.

Small said, “A lot of times I try to evoke some kind of feeling, some kind of emotion and some kind of past memory.”
       
Small has two pieces of his artwork are on display at the Brooks, “This exhibit shows the variety and the abilities and thought processes of many different artists and how they execute their ideas and how they want you to look through their eyes.”
          
It’s 130 works of art captured through the eyes of African-Americans and even told in their voices using an audio guide.

Thomas said, “These are the artists and collectors talking about the work themselves. So, it’s a really unique and personal way of experiencing the works in the exhibition.”
             
It’s an exhibition where the “The Soul of a City” has a story and voice that’s meant to be seen and heard.

“The Soul of a City” will be on display at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art through September 2.

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